Some of my lettuce is beginning to bolt. Just when it starts getting too hot in the kitchen and I prefer a cool salad over a warm meal, my salad fixins’ peter out on me. While I LIKE flowers, when a stalk shoots up on lettuce to produce flowers – thus producing seeds – I know my fresh-from-the-garden lettuce days are numbered.
1) Most salad greens – like lettuce and spinach – prefer cool weather. That means the Gulf Coast version of winter makes perfect growing conditions, while summer (and spring and fall) are too hot for them. They bolt, another word for “going to seed” as my grandmother called it. When they start this route in order to propagate (make babies), the leaves soon turn bitter. I do have a couple of varieties that last a little longer: ‘Red Sails’ and an oakleaf type whose seeds came to me from a neighbor. She calls it “Israel lettuce” and says seeds traveled to Texas in an unnamed pocket after a visit to the Holy Land. Jury’s still out on several new ones – a tennis ball heirloom I bought from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, ‘Vulcan’ that Sakata Seeds sent me and an organic blend given to me by Territorial Seed Company – to see how they do in the heat.*
2) They key is to NOT dig a hole for the tiny seeds; instead, dot them around on moist, scratched dirt and top with a sprinkling of potting soil. Keep them damp, but don’t pour water. The deluge will dislodge the seeds and they’ll end up sprouting somewhere else, like at your neighbor’s house.
3) I start putting out seeds around Labor Day and plant a few more in a couple of weeks. By Halloween, I’ve got enough salad to feed my subdivision. I have enough to feed my family long before that.
4) Some folks swear they’ve found a good summer greens substitute with Malabar spinach. I’ve grown this vine and while it is pretty, its taste is a bit strong to me.
5) Lettuce makes a great bed edging if you are more into aesthetics than edibles.
6) Salad greens work GREAT in pots if you are yardless, or if you have trouble bending to garden.
So…..would you like some seeds? Leave a comment to tell me and I’ll mail some out when mine go to seed. We’ll have a salad together. Wanna try the Vulcan? Don’t know if it will last the summer, but put enough of my Asian dressing on it and I think even my garden clogs might taste pretty good!
(*While I do not receive compensation, I was paid in SEED MONEY…..got free seeds from Territorial and Sakata companies.)